Justice for Children is a national child advocacy organization with headquarters in Houston, Texas. It was founded in 1987 by Randy Burton, a former Chief Prosecutor of the Family Offenses Section of the Harris County District Attorney’s office, and a group of concerned citizens within the community in response to the inadequacies and failure of child protective system to protect abused and neglected children.
Today, Justice for Children continues to function as the voice of the abused and neglected child. We remain unique in our purpose to advocate and intervene on behalf of the abused and neglected child at any stage of an abused child’s case. Our advocacy for a child is not dependent on a court appointment. Therefore, our advocacy for the child’s safety and protection can become a reality long before the case even goes to court. This distinction is critical when it comes to protecting an abused or neglected child since sometimes by the time the child’s case gets to court-it’s too late.
Justice for Children cases involve persons trying to protect an abused or neglected child. Individuals call asking for our assistance and guidance through a system that is often overwhelming, especially due to the emotional and traumatic events that are taking place in an abused or neglected child’s life. Often, protective parties have nowhere else to turn for guidance and assistance through the maze of bureaucratic agencies and a legal system that is often stacked against the child. While the full extent of child abuse and neglect in Texas and across the nation is unknown, the magnitude of this problem is undeniable and has never been greater. Most alarming are the statistics, both locally and nationally, that only one-third of verified cases of abuse or neglect are investigated.
Furthermore, of the children who died from abuse or neglect, 40% to 50% were known, by the very system that was established to protect them, to be abused or at risk. As alarming as this information may appear, on federal, state, and local levels, thousands of children are being lost by an inadequate child protective system.
Any programmatic response to the critical problem of child abuse and neglect is immediately challenged by numerous obstacles, including:
- serious gaps in knowledge and understanding among key professionals
- as well as the general public of the legal, socioeconomic, developmental,
- and medical dimensions of child maltreatment
- dwindling funding sources and decreased public confidence in
- the child protective service system
- overdue reforms to the agencies comprising the child-protective
- network (CPS, law enforcement, and the judiciary
- inconsistent definitions, procedures, and data collection standards
- across institutional and geographical jurisdictions, further undermining
- the vital continuum of prevention, intervention, and treatment
- services for abused and neglected children.
The purpose of Justice for Children is to provide a full range of advocacy and services for abused and neglected children; that includes legal advocacy, public policy monitoring, guidance through a complex child protective system, professional referrals, mental health services, court watch, research, education, and emotional support. The following is a brief explanation of our advocacy and services
Justice for Children assists and refers several thousand callers annually through the complicated and unsympathetic maze of governmental agencies established to protect abused children. Advocating for an abused or neglected child takes on many different forms of participation and involvement that include, researching and gathering supporting documentation; reviewing supporting documentation; referring persons to professionals; guiding them through the legal and judicial process; initiating child abuse investigations; generating advocacy correspondence and amicus briefs- court hearings; and acting as facilitator of professional services.
Justice for Children proposes and drafts legislation to improve the laws pertaining not only to child abuse and child protection, but also laws concerning the funding for protective services. We have also presented legislation designed to make the legal process more child friendly. Additionally, because of its experience in this area, Justice for Children receives numerous requests to provide testimony regarding various pieces of legislation around the country
Justice for Children is involved in a variety of legal research projects and assists in providing and contributing to amicus briefs and researching or providing data on other cutting edge legal issues affecting the rights of abused children
Recognizing the problems and issues that affect a child who is the victim of child abuse can increase the child’s chances of receiving proper intervention. Therefore, Justice for Children provides information and materials to combat child abuse and to educate the public of the signs and symptoms of child abuse or neglect. By educating society about the consequences of abuse and neglect and the importance of early intervention, hopefully, Justice for Children can, on a larger level, interrupt the dismal cycle of abuse.
Our efforts to collaborate with other concerned national and community leaders, professionals, institutions, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies is helping to further a common goal of solving the deficiencies in our present system to protect abused and neglected children. By expanding our relationships within the community and on a national level, we are working to create a system that will effectively handle a child’s initial report of abuse, provide immediate safety, and ultimately, prosecute and convict the child abuser. Justice for Children’s efforts have yielded many positive working relationships that continue to grow with each passing year. Together, we are making a difference.
Justice for Children’s expert opinion continues to be recognized and valued by local and national media, legal and medical professionals, child abuse experts, and various other children’s rights organizations. We have been featured on ABC’s Primetime Live, ABC’s prime-time documentary entitled ‘Crimes Against Children,’ a PBS documentary entitled ‘Boy Crying, Baby Crying,” as well as appearances on Good Morning America, Donahue, the Discovery channel’s “Justice Files,’ and HBO and the BBC.
Justice for Children’s first and only priority is the child’s protection. We are not funded by the agencies whose performance we question; we focus our time and energy entirely on the protection of the child without fear of reprisal from the agencies or officials involved. We are a 501 (c)(3) organization funded primarily through individual and corporate donations, and foundation grants; this funding ensures Justice for Children’s independent advocacy. There are no fees to the client for our services .
Our goal is to become the model for child advocacy programs by substantially enhancing the quality of life for abused and neglected children, and by providing the most effective educational, intervention, and treatment strategies available.